Review: Ian Shaw and Gill Manly

 Ian Shaw and Gill Manly
(Purcell Room, South Bank, April 28th 2010, review by Sarah Ellen Hughes)

A dark stage. A shuffle from behind the curtain. The sound of mobile phones being desperately silenced. And then the moment of truth- the stage lights rising to reveal Ian Shaw seated at the piano, launching into his first medley of songs.

Then, in a mellow tone, Ian introduces us to Gill Manly – or "Gilly", as he affectionately calls her. She is a vision in blue, cheekily coordinating the red-rimmed glasses, matching lipstick and pendant, and an outrageous ring that would probably be visible from the other side of the Thames.

Both Ian and Gill are born entertainers, and are similar both in their vocal range and their style. They delivered a show that was hilarious and heart-breaking; engaging and intriguing. Ian’s mouth-trumpet – complete with wah mute – was accompanied by his left hand. Gill’s voice rang around the walls, her microphone moving with her as if it were another limb.

All too often, I hear singers who simply haven't given enough thought to their own interpretation of a song, or how they might wrap their own strengths around the song . For me, this isn’t jazz, and it isn’t interesting. So thank goodness for Gill and Ian! Gill isn’t restricted by lyrics. She conveys their message by selecting the right balance of extra lyrics/syllables to create a flowing melodic line, while remaining true to the harmony and meaning of the song. Ian’s vocals are fearless, and his connection with the piano means that he can take a song to a new level every 8 bars.

Gill's gutsy and poignant version of "Little Girl Blue" is exactly how I think Rodgers and Hart would have imagined it being sung, but couldn’t write in on the lead-sheet. "A Song For You" was the vest version I’ve heard.

Then something magical happened. Ian Shaw unleashed his raw, aching voice for an emotional "Everything Must Change." I defy anyone to listen to this man without a lump in the throat. It was so deeply satisfying; I wanted to hear it again and again. Utterly gripping. Something connected in that song – it happened to Ian and it spread through the audience, pricking up hairs and welling up eyes.

For me, while the show was slick and incredibly entertaining, I wanted to hear more of the two singers together. They took turns to sing songs, and didn't interact a lot with each other's voices, which I found left a slightly disjointed feeling. A glorious "Heaven help us all" with spine-tingling harmonies satisfied my desire for the duet. I would have liked to have heard more like that.

Overall it was a terrific show. Their rapport couldn’t be faulted. The delivery was charming, the vocals outstanding. And the relentless applause which brought them back to the stage three times said it all.

Ian Shaw will appear with Eileen Hunter at Jazz FM's Bloomsbury Set on Saturday May 22nd.


Artist profile: Billy Jenkins

With Billy Jenkins you always know where you are: the topic may be serious, but you're never more than a split-second from laughter.

After our telephone conversation about his new album, "I Am A Man From Lewisham" (VOTP Records) I realised that, somehow, with Jenkins this joyful co-existence of the completely earnest and the utterly absurd had been the starting point for everything. Jenkins never fails to make his point clearly, but he is also ever-ready with a quip, a gag, a pun.

As John L Walters wrote in 2000, Jenkins provides "the missing link between comedy improv and music improv: very British, and full of music and good humour."

It's not a comfortable kind of humour. Jenkins punctures, challenges, he's one of nature's subversives. And some people are bound to find that kind of laughter disorienting and disturbing. Which is probably the main point of it.

On politics, for example, Jenkins was straight up: "My entertainment comes from watching politicians. That's all they are. Professional politicians. They haven't experienced the real world."

On his role as an officiant at humanist funerals? "It's an avant garde gig."

His star sign? "Faeces."

Jenkins also has the deep habit of being the performer. He was doing it from an early age. He sang as a soprano with choirs in both Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral. His biography states that he was already a professional musician at 14. He'd done more than 700 gigs by the age of 21 with art rock band Burlesque. And then in the 80's there were 40 European shows playing with Ginger Baker's Nutters. "Whupping Clapton's arse" on Sunshine of Your Love, he used to claim.

But when we start talking about music, some deeply- held beliefs emerge: "Don't confuse light-headedness about music with irreverence. It's JOY."

Jenkins is also serious about his roles of mentor, teacher and bringer-on of young musicians. It's something of a calling. He had rehearsal studios in Wood Wharf in Greenwich in the 1980's where the Loose Tubes generation were always welcome. The band on "I am a Man.." contains musicians from many generations.

"Nathaniel Facey (saxophonist on the CD) is from my children's generation, I taught him at the Royal Academy of Music, I taught Gail Brand at Middlesex. I met (violinist) Dylan Bates when he was just 16 - we found we had a lot in common, starting with the same sense of humour." And what does working with younger musicians bring? "I can be crabby and mid-50's, but I do have the capacity to turn into a 15 year old."

I asked him about listening to music. Again, the strong beliefs emerge: "I can't stand background music of any kind. I listen to music with intensity."Like an X-Ray."

So what would be his desert island discs? I discover that this is the wrong question. "I don't listen to music on radio or TV. I can't stand the compression. We've become a tickbox obsessed society. It's assumed that perfection is the way forward. But it's the imperfections make humans an interesting species."

Musicians you admire, then? Jimmy Yancey. Roland Kirk. Charles Mingus. Thelonious Monk. Monk was remarkable. Only 70 compositions. Minimal thematic structure, like Satie.

So, is Muddy Waters the key influence, as I keep reading? "People misunderstand the Afro-American tradition coming from civil rights. Every British band used to treat it with blind reverence. They didn't understand there is also HUMOUR. Willie Dixon's records are humorous. Muddy Waters? Sometimes it's supposed to be ironic. It's got nothing to do with arty-farty chatter."

Each track of "I am a Man…" sets up a different infectious groove, opens the door for what Jenkins calls "collective polyphony."

Chris May’s review of the album carefully enumerates the range of styles on the eight tracks of the album : from a "stomping 12-bar blues" to…"London's music hall/Chas 'n' Dave tradition". …"a tuba-led oompah waltz" … "an up tempo r&b shuffle" a track "in the late 1950s Ray Charles band" tradition...."a barn dance knees-up"…"a Maghrebi folk tune"…"a Salvationist recruiting hymn"... another blues.

Which is not bad at all, for a journey which hardly strays outside the London SE13 postcode.

Finally, I ask Jenkins if he is a rebel. What's more important to him is individuality: "It's about being Billy. Why can't people be themselves?"

Artist profile in partnership with

"I am a Man from Lewisham" is available from

Billy Jenkins' next gigs are:

*At The
Brockley MAX Festival Saturday 5th June
*In Catford celebrating 50 years of the
Lewisham Humanists on 17th June

Jenkins' next CD release is a trio album 'Born Again (And The Religion Is The Blues) on VOTP records scheduled for autumn release with Jim Watson on organ and Mike Pickering on drums.


Brad Mehldau interview

This interview with Brad Mehldau is by the leading French jazz critic Bruno Pfeiffer. It appeared in French in Liberation, where it received a tide of positive reader comment. It appears for the first time in the original English here, by kind permission of Bruno Pfeiffer.

Bruno Pfeiffer: How do you combine the different influences -jazz, classical, pop ?

Brad Mehldau: I don't make a distinction between genres - I just write and play what I'm feeling. Music in itself doesn't have genres - it's just 12 different tones, and how you arrange them in a given point in time.

BP: Your solos are perfectly constructed. Are you inspired by subjects other than jazz (philosophy, mathematics, logic?)

BM: Narratives, in general - a novel, a play, a movie, a symphony. They all have structure when they tell us a story - even crazy modern works like Joyce's Ulysses are very involved in a form. There is a beginning somewhere and an end somewhere, and the story passes through time. We reflect on our own transient quality to some extent when we experience that story - whether it is through music or some other artistic medium.

BP: What do you answer to those who say you are just a jazz musician?

BM: No one has ever said that to me. What a strange question! : )

BP: How do you define beauty in music?

BM: Beauty is the quality that makes the listener lose his or her self-possession.
The listener relinquishes his own will power for a moment, as he faces something that is greater and better than himself. Beauty - in music or anything - is always better than us, it is different and separate from us.

BP: In "Highway Rider", (Nonesuch, 2010) which I like a lot, sometimes you are swinging, sometimes deeply classical: did you intend to provide a sample of your various worlds?

BM: The record has a variety of texture, like you mention, and then it also has this continuity, that comes from the thematic unity - I use one idea to generate all the music. So there is a dichotomy between the textural variety and the thematic unity, I suppose.

BP: Improvisations often end up in simple nice sentences. Is that premeditated on your part, in your mind when you start a solo?

BM: There should be a story there, and stories often work well with sentences - and paragraphs, and chapters also. But again - if you look at Joyce - it is possible to forget about periods and commas and sentences and still tell a good story.

BP: The more concentrated you are, the more astounding your concerts tend to be: how do you prepare?

BM: Coffee.

BP: What difference between playing in Salle Pleyel, for instance, and at a festival?

BM: Every night, there is a different audience, every night, there is a new opportunity for something to happen that has not happened before.

BP: What is the nature of your relationship with the public?

BM: Absolute gratitude - my gratitude that they want to listen to me. This
gratitude does not lessen as a get older - on the contrary, it grows. So I
feel a responsibility to the listening public - I really don't want to waste
their time.

BP: How important is the influence of rock groups in your , RADIOHEAD for example??

BM: Life would be more grey without rock'n'roll!

BP: I found much tenderness in "Highway Rider" : is that how you are at the moment?

BM: I can stay tender for about 5 minutes - then that's enough! : )

BP: Did you compose with Joshua's playing in mind?

BM: I definitely did compose with Joshua's playing, and his sound, in mind. Joshua is like my musical brother - I feel so close to him.

BP: What instructions do you provide to your rhythm section?

BM: I try to not give them too much instruction - we talk about specific things for a new piece of music when I bring it in, and after that, after we've rehearsed it, hopefully, we don't need to talk too much.

Thanks again, M. Pfeiffer, and all the best,

Brad Mehldau

Follow this link for the interview in Liberation in French., a curtain-raiser to Mehldau's appearance at the Jazz Sous Les Pommiers festival in Coutances, France

Brad Mehldau is at the Wigmore Hall in June.


Patsy Craig talks about Partager

Patsy Craig is from a fine art background, a painter. She has been producing international music events in London for the past 4 years as "t Wo Music," a name which refers to two people, Zhenya Strigalev (Artistic Director) and herself - and is also extracted from the title of a book which she published called "Making Art Work. "

She explains here the background to the Partager Festival at Kings Place on May 5-8. The American musicians are better known and are a highly impressive list: (Fly - Mark Turner/Larry Grenadier/ Jeff Ballard, Hamid Drake and William Parker- above with Anthony Braxton). Here she focuses on some of the French guests.

"For many years now, jazz festivals have been pretty broad churches, bringing in blues, gospel, world music etc.

"Partager, like all my programming, attempts to broaden the concept of jazz and improvised music. There is so much cross-pollination these days that to speak of specific genres now is almost a moot point... Now maybe jazz just means complexity and nuance through improvisation more then any specific musical structure. With a nod in the direction of those historical jazz structures. That nod can be a loud nod or a more quiet nod. To me jazz is music that challenges the listener even when it’s soft and sweet.

"Partager is a merging of sensibilities- it means to share, after all. It refers to the migratory pattern of musicians on tour- the organic connection that is brought on by the ease of travel and even telecommunications. A chain reaction- New stepping stones across the water.

May 5th, 7 30pm: "Andy Emler (performing with his megaoctet including Marc Ducret) doesn't seem to have come from a 'strictly' jazz background (in fact far from it) - but is there any such thing nowadays? Andy’s background is strongly linked to improvisation but probably has more of a classical reference. Again, I think it is about how strong the nod is in the direction of jazz’s historical roots.

May 6th, 7 30 pm: "The Matthieu Donarier Trio perform fascinating reworkings of classics from the French chanson including songs by Georges Brassens and Charles Trenet.

The full concert listing is on the Kings Place site HERE


Review: Matthias Winckelmann (ENJA) interview

Review: Interview with Matthias Winckelmann (ENJA Records)
(Kings Place, April 27th, 2010, review by Neal Richardson)

A cross-section of British jazz people came out on Tuesday to Kings Place, to meet a true legend of the European jazz industry: Matthias Winckelmann, the founder of Enja Records. He gave us a fascinating lesson in the heart-and-head economics of the music business, and regaled us with some of the myriad anecdotes he has amassed while running ENJA, one of jazz's most prolific independent record label/publishing companies, for nearly forty years.

The stories kept flowing and the time flew. We were drawn into the fascinating highs and lows of being at the personal helm of an enterprise that has always been "on the edges" of an already-precarious business. The stories and questions were interspersed with fascinating video clips of Enja artists, including Abdullah Ibrahim, Ferenc Snetberger,(on video above) and Robert Fonseca.

A theme of threes emerged: the first of these was Alyn Shipton's description of Enja "lovely, eclectic, personal": it would be hard to think of a higher epithet nor a more admirable aim for a jazz label.

Matthias told the story of the company, and how it all started, from early jazz experiences, to the Damascene moment when he heard his first Charlie Parker record. God, isn't it better when a business is run from the heart rather than the pocket?! It certainly gave your writer great hope that it IS possible!

Encouraged by early successes with LPs by Mal Waldron, which garnered Enja distribution proper sales in Japan, Matthias pushed ahead with the determination: "I always wanted new music and artists, not a museum!"

His method? The second threesome of the evening: "Music influenced by indigenous culture, classical, and jazz". It is this that makes European jazz so strong, he said.

The Enja net has been cast wide over the years. Stateside too, with names tumbling out such as Tommy Flanagan, Ben Webster, Eric Dolphy, Lee Konitz and... some enthralling stories about Chet Baker. In reference to the latter's substance problems: "Normally you can't work with someone in that place... But with him, [I would] again, ANYTIME". It was bittersweet to hear that at the time of Chet's fatal Amsterdam hotel-window "fall", he was "in a very positive state, with lots of plans"...Winckelmann cast doubt on the suicide theory.

There was one more trinity: as we were wondering how Enja had survived having such a refreshingly artistic bias, Matthias explained: "I've been happy if 1/3 of our records break even, 1/3 make a profit, and 1/3 lose!". Considering the norm for our well-heeled pop cousins (for whom the jazz departments have often served as a "useful tax write-off," in Matthias' opinion) is 10% success, 90% fail.

So maybe Sammy Cahn's lyric isn't such a bad model for a business after all:

So if you're smart,
Really smart,
Only trust your heart

An extremely well-spent evening (more please!)

Video above of the Ferenc Snetberger/ Arild Andersen/ Paolo Vinaccia trio at the 2005 Veszprem Festival, Hungary 2005- Available on DVD)

The Matthias Winckelmann interview was organized by LondonJazz in partnership with Harmonia Mundi (UK) and Kings Place.


Jazz FM Audio On Demand

Mike Vitti of JazzFM informs me that this Helen Mayhew fan won't be needing to take his ghetto blaster out any more to listen to her Sunday programme.

It's happened. The 80s are truly over.

Vitti writes to me:

"All of the specialist programmes are available for seven days after transmission each week and replaced by the new one."

And HERE is where you'll find them.


Review: Saxophone Summit

Saxophone Summit
(Pizza Express, Dean Street, April 22nd 2010, review by Adam Tait)

Well then. A ‘saxophone summit’. Pretty epic title for a tour, I’d say. But bassist and bandleader Michael Janisch appears to know what he’s doing. And, to be fair, if saxophony was world politics, Nigel Hitchcock, Joel Frahm and Alex Garnett would probably be heading up the UN. The dictionary has summit as the ‘highest point’, and these three were not far off it on Thursday night at Pizza Express in Dean Street, Soho.

The interplay between the three was mesmerising to watch and to hear, but it was made so by the impressive backing of Janisch (bass), Steve Brown (drums) and Ross Stanley (piano). What was it that made the title ‘summit’ so apt for this performance? I've been thinking about that. Let's not be so naive as to say these men are the best in the business, that is a statement far beyond me. Nonetheless it is a suitable title. So why? Let me have a stab at it, eh?

It is the comfort of the performers that makes a jazz performance more than just a show of instrumental prowess. It’s the screwed face, chewed bottom lip, the sheer enjoyment which the saxophonists found in each other’s creativity, that made this performance as suitable for its title as it was. It was the jokes between the performers- Hitchcock’s jokes about Garnett’s height (‘stand up, then’ Hitchcock remarked as Janisch introduced Garnett, who looked ever so slightly diminutive next to Frahm), or his subtle ‘look out’ as Janisch broke into the impressive bass intro of Stepping Lightly, a highlight for me.

It’s this sort of relaxed attitude of the musicians towards their own performance that makes a jazz show what it should be. The musicians’ pride in their new and fresh arrangements of classic jazz pieces, and the pieces that they had written themselves, show just how pleased they are to be on stage together, but what was also constantly evident was that they didn’t feel they had to prove themselves. They were all consistently comfortable, at ease with themselves, with the music, and with each other. Garnett’s ‘that’s about it, yeah?’ when setting the time for his own arrangements, show how thoroughly grounded these people are in their own ability. And when you’re watching people who are so assured of their own right to be on a stage, well, who on earth are any of us to argue?

Michael Janisch will be at the Pizza Express with the great LEE KONITZ on May 19 and 20


Getting ready for Cheltenham

The preparations for this weekend's Cheltenham Jazz Festival are drawing on local traditions. According to the Gloucestershire press there have been jazzjive swing flashmobs out in the centre of town (also above).

Free improviser Gail Brand will be talking about the festival on tomorrow's Midweek on BBC Radio 4.


Previewing the final acts at Pizza on the Park

Harold Sanditen sets about the sad task of previewing the last three acts scheduled to appear at Pizza on the Park.

Pizza on the Park is due to close on 18th June 2010 after around 30 years as one of London’s prime cabaret and jazz venues. As that sad day approaches, the final three week season has been announced, consisting of the crème de la crème of American cabaret singers – Andrea Marcovicci (above right, 1 – 6 June), Karen Akers (above left, 8 – 13 June) and Steve Ross (15 – 18 June).

I’ve seen all three of these performers, and London is in for a real treat. All three are incredibly elegant, stylish performers, each with a truly amazing ability to interpret a song, and each able to find unique moments in even the most well-known of songs. All three are also known for the in-depth research they do for their shows. This means each show is not only wonderfully entertaining, but also packed with tidbits of information to store up for dinner parties....

Each is considered at the top of his or her craft – all three make the Oak Room at the Algonquin their New York performing residence. Andrea Marcovicci is the quintessential queen of elegance, humour and playfulness. Karen Akers is the personification of sultry sophistication and mystery, only heightened by the depth of her voice. Steve Ross is the undeniable king of wry wit and wordplay.

For anyone interested in real interpreters of songs, this final season truly is a must see. Each show is a master class in the ability to tell a story through lyrics. With the loss of Pizza on the Park, you probably won’t be able to see them in London again for a long time, if ever.

If you’d like to try and help preserve this wonderful venue, please join the Facebook group


Jazz at the Grange

Something special. The first ever jazz gig at the venue pictured here: the Grange at Northington in Hampshire. This is Europe's earliest Greek revival house and is one of the most perfect, idyllic, romantic settings in England. During the interval guests can picnic or dine inside the crumbling mansion.

Every summer since 1997 it has been home to Grange Park Opera, the brainchild of a friend of mine from university, Wasfi Kani OBE, possibly the most dynamic, talented and determined company director of a performing arts company in Britain.

It's on Tuesday June 29th, start time 5.20pm. First up will be the Henry Armburg Jennings Big Band and soloists playing a set in The Grange's splendid intimate theatre, starting with Glenn Miller and Rat Pack featuring ex-NYJO rising vocal star Attila, moving into Gershwin, Porter, Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, plus specially commissioned arrangements from both the bandleader and from trombonist Callum Au.

The second half of the programme moves out into to the fabulous grounds around the house. The audience will be able to choose a style, or wander around the various tents and stages to hear:

-A funk group led by Adam King on bass with Leon Greening on piano.

-Henry Armburg Jennings' top flight bebop sextet with Sammy Mayne (alto sax), Alex Garnett (tenor sax),Ross Stanley (piano), Sebastiaan de Krom (drums) and Jeremy Brown (bass)

-An American songbook quartet featuring Attila, Rob Barron (piano), Tom Farmer (bass) and Tommy Laurence (Sax)

-A Dixieland band featuring Tom Walsh (trumpet), the first recipient of the Humphrey Lytttelton Prize at RAM.


"Time is running short, unless jazz lovers protest."

This morning's Guardian takes up the cause of Pizza on the Park in a leading article.


Review: Humphrey Lyttelton Celebration

Humphrey Lyttelton Celebration
(HMV Hammersmith Apollo, April 25th 2010)

UPDATE 28th April. The first estimate of money raised at the concert for the Humph Trust is £67,ooo. (Wow!)

"It felt more like a party than a concert - but that's what it was meant to be."

Stephen Lyttelton's words, bringing to a close the celebration which he had organized of his late father, rang completely true. The evening, two years to the day since Humph's death, which brought together a panoply of stars from jazz and comedy to perform for a packed-out 3,600-seater Hammersmith Apollo, was a complete triumph.

It started with Stephen Lyttelton announcing the first recipient of a new award in honour of his father for a student at the Royal Academy of Music: trumpeter Tom Walsh, who played a fluent solo on Horace Silver's Song for my Father. The obvious dedicatee of this opening number was subtly left unsaid: a nice touch.

Stephen Lyttelton pointed out that Humph had been utterly dedicated to the mission of helping young jazz musicians. So the creation of a durable annual award through the Humph Trust was unquestionably the right purpose for the evening. Indeed, as the performance progessed, there seemed to be more and more evidence of the success of Humph's endeavours to support British jazz. Musicians who had benefited from his completely benign influence were to appear, one after another. The singer Elkie Brooks, who had sung with his band from the 60s, and Stacey Kent whose stint had been in the nineties, appeared alongside instrumentalists such as Karen Sharp and Robert Fowler.

The host of comedians who had worked with Humph on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue also remembered him during the evening. In turn, each gave his or her personal tribute with great fondness of the encouragement which Humph had given them, of the fine role model he had provided, and of the depth of his good nature. "Never lose touch with 'silly,' " he had advised one.

But these endlessly inventive Radio 4 comedians were also there to entertain. They got straight down to business from their first of many entrances with some indispensable new definitions from the Uxbridge Dictionary, such as:

Insolent. Fell off the Isle of Wight Ferry.
Undeterred: Skid Mark
And one which got the first big laugh of the evening:
Metatarsals: A get-together at Jeffrey Archer's

The comedic high jinks were to produce highlights such as the diner/orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally with the part of Meg Ryan played by a swanee whistle. Rob Brydon -with a fine voice and great projection - brought the house down with the words of "Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick" sung to the tune of "Delilah."

The musical mainstay of the evening was the eight-piece Humphrey Lyttelton Band, which still performs regularly at the Bull's Head in Barnes under the direction of Tony Fisher. They sounded on great form. Ensemble was precise and tight, they played the arrangements with both freshness and verve, and moved from style to style with ease. Jimmy Hastings played a hauntingly beautiful alto saxophone solo on Humph's composition "Sound of a Sad Sweet Song," sung with touching emotion by Sue Richardson, who also soloed on trumpet. Karen Sharp then played subtly and beautifully on "I got rhythm," the band backing a resplendent and soulful Tina May.

The cause, the man, the memories had brought out a host of other guests: Kenny Ball's Band chuntering headlong through "That's a Plenty", propelled by the fine Nick Milward; Wally Fawkes, making a rare and all the more welcome appearance on clarinet; Acker Bilk 's band featuring an explosive trumpet solo from Rico Tomasso; Rolling Stone Charlie Watts popping up alongside his childhood mucker from Kingsbury, the impeccable bassist Dave Green. Jools Holland provided some not completely extraneous detail surrounding the circumstances of his conception - it was after his parents had attended a Humph gig in 1956, and then launched into a joyful mash-up with fellow stride pianists Axel Zwingelberger and Ben Waters.

This was indeed a special celebration. They do these things well in the Lyttelton family: Stephen's Herculean labour of filial affection came to its successful fruition last night, just as Humph had paid tribute to his father George in a touching preface to "George Lyttelton's Commonplace Book, " beautifully published by stone Trough Books in 2002.

That book quotes Anatole France: "Caressez longtemps votre phrase, elle finira par sourire."

The audience which emerged onto Hammersmith Broadway after a great evening was certainly smiling.


Review: Freddie Gavita-Calum Gourlay Jazz Orchestra

Freddie Gavita-Calum Gourlay Jazz Orchestra
(Con Cellar Bar NW1, Friday April 23rd 2010,
part of the 2010 Con Cellar Bar Festival, review by Frank Griffith)

The Freddie Gavita/Calum Gourlay Jazz Orchestra played to a packed house on Friday at Camden's Constitution Pub.

Their 90-minute first set featured mixture of originals and arrangements by the co-leaders, trumpeter, Freddie Gavita and bassist, Calum Gourlay. Gavita's eclectic treatment of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker's "Scrapple From the Apple" was full of angular melodic permutations and brightly coloured harmonies, whereas Gourlay's take on Billy Strayhorn's "Johnny Come Lately" opted for a more cloaked Ellingtonia quality, peppered with a scintilla of sound cultures borrowed from East of the Atlantic.

The band's crop of young, talented and creative recent grads from jazz courses from music academies from the capital included faces such as Toms- Lawrence and Challenger- as well as James Allsopp occupying key sax chairs. The redoubtable Kit Downes was on keyboard. These younger talents were complemented by more seasoned veterans, trumpeters Noel Langley and Nick Smart, along with altoist Martin Speake. Speake's folk-like melodical improvisations helped to infuse a coat of pastorality over the somewhat sharper edged tendencies brought forth by this ensemble.

A new large-scale jazz orchestra is a very welcome addition to the scene. Their Friday set kicked off a 3 day jazz festival for St George's Day weekend. Stay tuned at this time next year for what, with luck, the organizers expect to become an annual event, in addition to their regular, adventurously programmed Monday nights. Here's hoping.

Photo of Calum Gourlay by Patrick Hadfield

Frank Griffith's trio, with Steve Riddle and Eric Lease will be at the Half Moon in Roxeth Hill, Harrow-on-the-Hill HA2 this Wednesday 28th, from 9.30pm.



Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

Once wrote an employee at Lloyd's Bank's Head Office in Cornhill EC2, called T.S. Eliot.

The real and the virtual definitely seem to be coalescing in this video of London band Sankorfa, ex-Guildhall classical perc students - also in EC2. Their name means “looking back to go forward” in one of the nine official languages of Ghana (help me anyone?) The name was previously used by a Ghanaian highlife group based in Los Angeles in the 1980's.

Which probably explains why their PR company chose to send me an email at 9:04pm last night, inviting me to the launch of the 2010 Sankorfa's EP.

Which was taking place on the same night, and had already started.

The EP is called ‘In Between Instruments,’ the band's website is HERE.


How's it going Steve?

I'm always fascinated to ask club proprietors about special gigs they really look forward to. And here's an evening which 606 proprietor Steve Rubie has already marked down as a goody. On July 22nd, as part of the Earls Court Festival Tim Garland will interview Bill Bruford about his autobiography, and then play. More details to follow, but bookings are already open.

And among forthcoming gigs in the next few weeks, Steve singled out Sting's guitarist Dominic Miller next Wednesday 28th April with percussionist Rhani Krija, the keyboard player from Level 42 Mike Lindup and bassist Nicolas Fiszman.

And then there's the winner of the 2009 Hungarian Montreux jazz guitar competition Roland Balogh on May 4th with one hell of a band: top drawer pianist Jim Watson, Laurence Cottle on bass and Liane Carroll's Mark Fletcher on drums.

And on Sunday lunchtime May 23rd there's the big band of drummer Matt Skelton, often to be found propelling symphony orchestras. To hear a big band at the Six is the authentic close-up experience. Enjoy!


Two Jazz Photography Exhibitions

You know how it is. You wait ages for a jazz photography exhibition in London. And then along come TWO. (Both the photographers have kindly allowed me to post these pictures. Please do not reproduce either of these images without their permission.)

Stan Tracey, 2008. Photo credit: William Ellis (Rock Archive Gallery 110 Islington High Street N1 8EG, 22nd April - 4th May)

Chet Baker, 1984. Photo credit: Tim Motion Richard Young Gallery, 4 Holland Street, W8 4LT, 4th May to 7th June)


Apart from the Stan Tracey image above, William Ellis's exhibition, entitled "Mavericks: Jazz Photographs, includes pictures of eg drummers Max Roach and Al Foster, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and... Miles.

The exhibition by Tim Motion, entitled "An Eye for Sound" will includes Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Bo Diddley, Slim Gaillard and Art Blakey.

Motion kindly wrote to me about his picture of Chet Baker: The Chet Baker photos were all taken at The Canteen in Great Queen Street in 1984. It was a fine but doomed adventure by an entrepreneur friend, Joe Bryan. There was always a good atmosphere. I think it lasted about two years.

The exhibitions sound really interesting, and they're not on for long. I'm hoping to catch both.


BBC Proms

The 2010 Proms season is now up on the BBC's website.

From my first skim through there is just one jazz prom, a late-nighter from Jamie Cullum and the Heritage Orchestra on August 26th.

For songbook nuts there's also a Rodgers and Hammerstein celebration on August 22nd and a Sondheim 80th birthday bash on July 31st.

The BBC Concert Orchestra on August 30th has one Don Sebesky arrangement.

I'm pleased for my Kings Place neighbour the Aurora Orchestra who've got a Prom.

And that's all I can find.

Other non-classical things are a World routes session with ouds and ganuns on August 9th, and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra with Kathryn Tickell on September 8th.

Look for yourselves on the pages which are now on the BBC website.


Review: Tom Cawley's Curios

Tom Cawley's Curios
(Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, April 20th 2010, review by Charlotte Keeffe)

Before he took his place at the piano - where he so naturally belongs - the down-to-earth pianist, composer and bandleader of Curios, Tom Cawley told the audience he had something to confess. No, nothing alarming or controversial. Simply that he, Sam Burgess (double bass) and Joshua Blackmore (drums) had just had a lovely day, meeting and listening to students on the jazz course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

Cawley began by tickling the keys, and tumbling into a yearning romantic melody, gracefully introducing us to the classical notions of his distinctive trio - performing the title track Hidden, from their first album, released in 2006.

Cawley's passion for motor sports didn't take long to reveal itself. The band’s hero, he told us, is Jenson Button. Running his hand through his hair Cawley smiled and admitted he gets his style from him too. Their next piece was a tribute to Button, Jensen – from Curios’s second album, Closer, from 2008.

Burgess then presented us with some firm, sturdy double bass on Roebuck, which was also a tribute, this time to Nigel Roebuck - Cawley’s favourite motor sports writer, also from the album Closer.

Blackmore played so dynamically throughout the set. At times he filled the room with overwhelming resonances that he grew from his cymbals. The diverse sounds he achieved on the kit conjured up a sense of being inside a mechanic’s garage. Hitting the raised top of the cymbals and the sides of the drums, enhanced a tight, raw attacking sound, like a hammer in the distance. He generated these rhythmic fragments that offered so much for Cawley and Burgess to play with.

Cawley’s attention to detail involved every note being played with a phenomenally even touch. Using the full range of the piano, particularly the higher register, he made the instrument sing. Igniting these explosive phrases in Bradford, a tribute to Brad Mehldau, again from the album Closer. Jolting up and down on his stool, the audience could feel Cawley’s excitement – it was as if he was sat in a racing car, hitting turbo. Burgess and Blackmore were brewing underneath him - his fuel. Curios works wonderfully as a statement of musical intimacy, friendship and enthusiasm.

The accelerating trio drove us around their musical racing track, passing through spiralling dissonances, lyrical solos, warm impressionistic harmonies, and swirling, flourishing passages. However, it was the short, beautiful fragmented melodies that teased the listener, often with humorous twists and turns.

The brakes went on for the gentle closing number, 2009 World Championship, the last track from their latest album The Other Place released in March this year on Edition Records. It has a sweet melody, sensitively embraced by the trio’s unique musical intelligence.

By the end of this well-attended and enjoyable gig I certainly wasn't the only person thinking: ‘what a ride!'

Curios are at the 606 Club on Tuesday May 25th


An invitation to Norway for young jazz musicians

-This is Søgne fjord, north of Bergen in Norway
-Which is not where the 2010 Jeunesses Musicales course is
-This course is in Søgne near Kristiansand in Southern Norway
-Musicians 18 to 30 are eligible
-Closing date for applications is 18th May
-The faculty looks very impressive
-Transport to and from Norway is not provided
-More details on how to apply are HERE
-"Norwegian" in cockney rhyming jazz slang means chord


Is word of mouth the future?

I've been reading. A piece from the McKinsey Quarterly entitled: "A new way to measure word-of mouth marketing."

And McKinsey guys reckon: "Marketers may spend millions of dollars on elaborately conceived advertising campaigns, yet often what really makes up a consumer’s mind is not only simple but also free: a word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted source."..."As online communities increase in size, number, and character, marketers have come to recognize word of mouth’s growing importance." They talk about a "tectonic power shift toward consumers."

And here's where we quick flexible online folk come in:

"Messages can be directed at specific individuals who are most likely to spread positive word of mouth through their social networks. As a message spreads, this approach generates an exponential word-of-mouth impact, similar to the ripple effect when a pebble is dropped in a pond."

Here's the full piece

And welcome to the new world. Where the reputations of musicians with the kind of word of mouth which goes straight in, cuts deep and stays internalized for life (Parker, Monk, Mingus...) can only go on growing.

Picture : A La Bourse: Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
ca. 1878–79. Pastel on paper, pieced and laid down on canvas. Metropolitan Museum New York


Review: Dee Dee Bridgewater/ China Moses

Dee Dee Bridgwater and China Moses
(Barbican, April 16th 2010, reviews by Sarah Ellen Hughes and Zena James.)

Friday April 16th saw an historic occasion. Dee Dee Bridgewater and her daughter China Moses have never before appeared on stage at the same gig. China Moses took the first set and Dee Dee Bridgewater took the second. This was a treat indeed.

China Moses' swinging trio from France -Fabien Marcoz, bass; Jean Pierre Derouard, drums; Raphael Lemonnier, piano- set a sturdy backing for her to deliver a tribute to Dinah Washington. Self-confessed as “not a jazz singer”, China deftly delivered the blues in crowd-pleasing soul-inspired style.She immediately won the hearts of the Barbican audience with her irresistibly cute chatter over the band’s grooves and her dashing on and off stage to fetch forgotten props.

Bubbly and charming introductions to the songs were well-balanced with soaring bluesy vocals and gutsy interpretations of Dinah’s typical repertoire. A low-down and funky “Cry Me a River” was well-delivered, as was the stunning “Resolution Blues,” the drama of which included a well-timed sip from a glass to accord with a pertinent lyric.

Thanks to the Icelandic volcano, Dee Dee almost never made it to Britain on Saturday. However, a cancelled flight wouldn’t defeat her, and she made a 14-hour mini bus journey from Stuttgart in order to satisfy a full house at the Barbican.

Adorned with multi-coloured Gypsy skirts and exuding warmth and humour, Dee Dee Bridgewater was in charge from the outset at the Barbican on Friday. In London for just one night and supported by her vocalist daughter China Moses, Dee Dee came to town determined to celebrate the oft-overlooked “strength and independence” of Billie Holiday.

And go to town she did. I was immersed in her outstanding vocal prowess and showmanship from to start to finish as she carried the full house through Billie’s cheerful thirties and early forties recording heyday and towards her gradual and painful decline, handpicking the most poignant of standards to represent the chanteuse’s chequered life and musical expression of intense love and despair.

But unlike in many of Billie Holiday’s performances, there was never a trace of vulnerability even in the most delicate of melodies and lyrics. Instead we heard Dee Dee glide from resigned regret to almost menacing forewarning of life’s injustice. A dark and utterly convincing Don’t Explain was made all the more powerful by a brilliant conversational flute solo from multi reedist/saxophonist James Carter, who, like Dee Dee, is an incredibly expressive storyteller (about to resume his solo career, starting at Ronnie Scott’s this Thursday 22nd).

High-energy, cheeky Billie was represented by the opener Lady Sings the Blues, a cabaret version of Them There Eyes (where the Broadway show-woman emerged with fine flair, complete with stunning vocal “trumpet” solo) and a racing A Foggy Day, in which we ironically were treated to definite glimpses of Ella. A scat and drum feature here was the first real moment we had to focus on the exciting work of Gregory Hutchinson.

Dutch award-winning bassist Stefan Lievestro came into his own on Billie’s 1941 self-penned signature tune Fine & Mellow, as did Carter once again in one of the finest soaring and dynamic tenor solos of the night.

As far as personal favourites go, it was already getting tricky to choose between a beautifully meaningful You’ve Changed and the spine-tingling (vocal and sax) heights of Dee Dee’s soulful God Bless The Child (for an over-sung tune it was by far the best version I’ve ever heard).

But then came the clincher. It was simply breath-taking. The stomach-churning anti-lynching poem-turned song Strange Fruit (1939) was difficult enough to listen to when Billie sang it, but this was something else. Dee Dee owned it entirely, delivering power and strength that brought the audience to its feet and brought to me a scene I will never forget.

And that’s what she came here to do – remind us of the strong, forceful and unforgettable legacy of Billie Holiday. Job done.

For some WONDERFUL news about Sarah Ellen Hughes, follow this link.


Sarah Ellen Hughes wins Jazzvoices competition

London-based Singer and LondonJazz writer Sarah Ellen Hughes has just won the JazzVoices competition in its 9th year of existence. The prize was EUR 2000 plus concerts in Lithuania, equipment, and various other goodies.

There was an international jury, eighteen semi-finalists and eight finalists. The semi finals and finals were held in the port city of Klaipeda, Lithuania (above) on April 10th. The other finalists were singers from Croatia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia and the USA.

Lithuanians and Letts do it......Yes, Sarah does have Cole Porter's "Let's Do it, Let's Fall in Love" in the repertoire.

Here's the Jazzvoices website. Many congratulations!


Review: Lou Reed's Metal Machine

Lou Reed's Metal Machine Trio
(The Junction, Cambridge, 17 April, and Royal Festival Hall, London, April 19th 2010 reviews and pencil drawing by Geoff Winston)

It all began with a low, fluctuating electronic hum, the backdrop to the audience's lively chatter, eagerly anticipating what was to be an uncompromising musical event.

Before the performance, the musicians were briefly onstage to adjust their settings, and moments later were in a huddle by the mixing desk at the back of the matt black auditorium for a pre-concert team talk; Lou Reed, the elder statesman - wiry, a twinkle in his eye, short curly hair and leathery complexion, with his lanky, long-haired co-musicians and their technicians.

Centre-stage, Reed in short leather jacket, crouched, almost invisible, behind a table strewn with electronic hardware, grinding granite-like sounds from his guitars. To the left was Sarth Calhoun, processing the sound with the aid of two Apple Macs, a luminous green glow illuminating his working area; to the right, Ulrich Krieger, on tenor sax which was manipulated as the concert opened, to create dense feedback, bumps and pulses.

Waves of reverberating sound were layered to create an unremitting aural assault. Yet this is not to say that it was not compelling. Moving on from his 1975 Metal Machine Music albums, which have an energised, uplifting quality, and which Reed says were motivated by his love of guitar feedback, this music goes in to a different zone. This was a searching, extreme form which echoes the spirit of our times - at times a music of great sadness, interwoven with a echoes of conflict and technical overabundance.

There was no let-up for the first half of the set. Occasionally, Reed's guitars were exchanged and the textures were modified. There was a moment of quiet respite and an ambient passage ensued, followed by brief spells of sharp, free-jazz blowing from Kriege and a resonant bell-like tone, rising above the white noise. Reed continued to deliver hefty, wailing washes of sound, walking a tightrope between rock, noise and the free-jazz of his hero, Ornette Coleman.

This was an incontrovertably extreme and physically demanding concert. The exhausted musicians were rewarded by an appreciative audience, to whom Lou Reed mouthed an equally appreciative 'thank you'.

Whether you liked it or not, this is the sort of proposition that shapes the very definition of music. Maybe this is the music the Velvet Underground wanted to be ...

Royal Festival Hall

In the generous spaces of the RFH, the concert was no less intense than the Cambridge opener; however, the pace was noticeably modulated and the sound separation clearly defined; Krieger, the sax player was clean and sharp, and was given full rein; a massive gong and giant drum were an addition to the armoury, complementing Calhoun’s thudding electronic percussion.

The concert opened with aircraft and helicopter-like sounds and chest-vibrating bass pulses. Yet, in this space, Reed’s guitar playing came to the fore, and, later in the concert, he rose from his seat to stalk the stage while playing; his electronic instrumentation was also a key component of the central section of this unbroken sequence.

Reed was resolutely in charge, gesturing to ensure that his sound-plan was executed as he’d envisioned it and had been observed rigorously instructing his musicians at rehearsal earlier in the day. The percussion added a dramatic dimension when beaten with padded mallets and Reed himself added the final flourishes with a series of huge crashes applied with outsize mallets. ‘Metal Machine Music lives on,’ pronounced Reed as they took their bows. On these showings it is in rude health!


Dee Dee is at Ronnie's

A change of programme at Ronnie Scott's tonight and tomorrow. In place of Wallace Roney who can't get into the UK, Ronnie's is featuring the volcanic Dee Dee Bridgewater and her band.

Who can't get out.


Three Protests

Some current campaigns to mention.

Musicians against Ryanair is a Facebook campaign which has gathered nearly 4000 members in a couple of days (how ironic to be harping on about that when nobody is actually flying anywhere).

Jazz Off Air is Jazz Services petition for more jazz on the BBC which will close on May 20th.

Save 6 Music is a Facebook group with around 175,000 members.


Congratulations to Adam Glasser

London's own Adam Glasser has just won CD of the year for the CD Free at First in the contemporary jazz category at tonight's sixteenth South African Music Awards, in a ceremony at Sun City. The CD by the harmonica player and composser is an inspired and uplifting mixture of standards and township-inspired originals, and recommended.

Adam's Myspace has a gig schedule.

One thing is for certain: there'll be a new cause for celebration when Adam plays at the African Stars night at Ronnie Scott's on Saturday May 15th.

And where can you register your own words of congratulation? The comments section below, maybe?


Review: Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura
(Vortex, April 12th 2010, Review by Stephen Middleton)

Not long ago a friend asked me what Kafkaesque meant. I explained the common usage, while suggesting that (like schizophrenic) it is a much-abused and inaccurate term. The conversation was revived a few hours before the wonderful duo concert bySatoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura.

This time it was about the usage of‘-esque’s & ‘-ian’s in reviews. Most jazz writers will have penned their Ayler and Coltrane, Tyner and Jarrett -esques. Is this just lazy avoidance of accurate description? Or can it be an important tool for points of reference?

In any event pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura have few -esques about them. Heard in duo format, their music has many facets, though a slightly sombre, even ominous, beauty is the prevalent one. They don’t, though, reference the jazz tradition as often as many of their contemporaries. I first heard them, in duo form, on the CD How Many? and was entranced by the delicate,but somewhat dark, playing.

Here at the Vortex, a favourite club of theirs, returned to after one of those tour itineraries that has jet lag written all over it, they were in marvellous form. Their command of dynamics is what sets them apart.

Often working small shifts on a simple motif, or playing quickfire unison openings, they captivate in such immediately appealing ways that it is a while before one is aware of the prodigious technique which both command. (I’ve long thought Tamura one of the very finest contemporary trumpeters,while Fujii is clearly one of the leading composers and musical thinkers.)

The first set was, perhaps, the more formal. The first piece embodied the aforementioned sombre, slightly ominous lyricism. Natsuki Tamura was used sparingly but effectively. Next came a simple piano motif that gradually went off kilter, over which some spell binding trumpet steepled and trilled.

Fujii delved inside the piano to produce an effect that was curiously Eastern, before combining with Tamura in another of those unison spirals, that could come from the classical tradition as easily as jazz (or neither). They both estranged, but never lost, the pulse in a piece I think I recognised from How Many?.

Even when scraping and rattling, and producing ping-pong/stoppered effects, as Fujii did in the next piece, orplaying only the mouthpiece of his trumpet (with cupped hands,producing a wah wah/Clangers speak effect) as Tamura did in thesecond set, this is entirely cogent and in keeping; there is aclarity to the pieces, which often end on the purest of tones from Tamura and elegant chords from Fujii. Long, varied discourses andphrase dissection never move far from the motif stated or the atmosphere established at the start of the piece and the effect ismesmerising. Fujii sticks to the middle register in great part,with occasional forays upwards, and sometimes surprises with a squeak as an implement within the piano announces itself.

The second set was somewhat freer, but the basic modus operandi was retained. Brilliant playing serving distinctive,accessible but never trite sonorities. Whether their Japanese background is a factor in the absence of clear references to the jazz tradition is a moot point. (I noticed here, as I have before, that Fujii occasionallyplays phrases that could just as well be played by a prog rock pianistas, say, Cecil Taylor, but as elsewhere, it works: context is all.)

At the end of an exhilarating evening, Satoko Fujii spoke of'healing music' (which is an almost Ayleresque concept, of course,though the American saxophonist may not have had jet lag in mind),before they closed with 'Prayer', the closest thing to a traditionalballad played all evening, without the rhythmic displacements thatFujii had used elsewhere. Not -esque at all, but Miles would have beenproud of it.

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura work in myriad aggregations, from solo through to big band, via the group Gato Libre, where Fujii plays accordion, and various electronic projects. It is as a duo that I first heard, and was captivated by them.

As a duo here, though they are not without a humorous side, they produced some of the most purely, if occasionally severely, beautiful music that I’ve heard in years.

Photo Credit : Tomasz Woźniczka / Izabela Lechowicz
With thanks to Chris Parker


BUPA prescribe jazz for dementia (sic)

BUPA would no doubt claim that this TV ad citing an example (fact or fiction?) where "a spot of jazz" is prescribed in a BUPA care home to help a patient deal with dementia is harmless, rather funny, or possibly even good publicity broadening the audience for jazz.

So tell me. Am the only person getting riled by the association: the jazz fan seen as someone likely to be in a care home? If so, please go ahead, it will only take three LondonJazz readers to have me sectioned under under the UK's 1983 Mental Health Act.

If not, the Advertising Standards Authority's complaints procedure is HERE


Review: Joey Calderazzo and Julian Joseph

Joey Calderazzo and Julian Joseph
Pizza Express Dean Street, April 15th 2010, part of Steinway piano festival)

We all know the formula well from reality TV. In countless episodes of Big Brother or I'm a Celebrity, people who have never met before get put in a room together for the benefit of an audience.

The experience of witnessing the first encounter of piano titans Julian Joseph and Joey Calderazzo (above) had similarities. but also at least two major differences. Firstly, most of what this pair have to express they do through the music. And secondly - and more importantly - these two do actually have something to say to each other.

I was so pleased to have caught at least part of this unique evening, which launched the Pizza Express Steinway Festival, previewed for us HERE by Joe Stilgoe.

This kind of event, the first encounter between two musicians of almost exactly the same age, testing each other out is a never-to-be-repeated event. And the intimate surroundings of the Dean Street basement are the perfect place to witness it at clse quarters. Calderazzo explained how it works. "You go over stuff. And whatever happens happens."

But what happens happens with an intensity and a speed which is quite mesmerising. (Getting carried away now...) They're like Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, or Macauley Culkin and the burglars in Home Alone, or a friendly version of Lance Armstrong versus Alberto Contador.

They are psyching each other out, picking up and copying melodic fragments, textures, they're playing catch, they're avoiding each other by microseconds, setting up bouncing textures against each other, then providing pedal wash, together, then they're colliding, and apologising for doing it with a smile.

There was a memorably touching moment in Calderazzo's solo number, his own composition Hope. It was originally written during Michael Brecker's long final illness. It brought back to Calderazzo memories of the huge presence of Brecker in his life and his musical development, and was played as a homage to his memory.

The good news is the there are three more days of two Steinways at the Pizza Express. The other good news is that Joseph and Calderazzo both want to play together again. The other good news is that Joseph has some very interesting projects coming up: a Monteverdi collaboration with the Sixteen. A baseball opera called Shadowball. And on the subject of good news, that's definitely what this duo is.

Photo Credit: Cees Van De Ven


Disorder on the Border?

Fancy a Saturday night in? Joe Kassman-Tod's radio show Disorder at the Border tomorrow Saturday 17th at 8pm n Resonance 104.4FM has some interesting stuff, and in particular a preview of the Partager Paris-London-New York series at Kings Place. Joe will be interviewing Patsy Craig of "t Wo" Productions who's running the festival.

One of the artists performing at the festival is pianist and composer Andy Emler.

Joe has been travelling abroad (highly tenuous link to picture above!). He went off to Royaumont Abbey in France to record his church organ project. Emler performs as soloist and in duet and trio formats. I note the name of Mederic Collignon on cornet and bugle, whose last album has been getting rave reviews in France. Bruno Pfeiffer writing in Liberation says that it "is the first record of the year to have shaken me up from top to bottom. Maybe that sounds better in French: "De la nuée de disques de jazz qu'un mirifique printemps annonce, le premier à me secouer de haut en bas s'appelle "Shangri Tunkashila". Here's Bruno's full profile/review,

Here's a link to the Andy Emler concert at Kings Place , featuring Marc Ducret.


It takes a volcano

Tonight's gig by H-Alpha at the Vortex has had to be cancelled because of the band is airport-bound in Oslo.

Vortex folk are reminding me that, volcanic ash permitting, the East London Line is about to make Dalston far more accessible.


US Jazz Journalists' Association Awards

The nominees for the American JJA Awardss have been announced. Awards ceremony is in mid-June in New York. There are 41 different categories.

Musician of the Year nominations

Dave Douglas
Vijay Iyer
Joe Lovano
Sonny Rollins
Henry Threadgill

Record of the Year nominations

Infernal Machines, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society- New Amsterdam Records
Historicity, Vijay Iyer Trio,-ACT Music
Travail, Transformation and Flow, Steve Lehman Octet -Pi Recordings
Folk Art, Joe Lovano- Blue Note Records
This Brings Us To, Vol. 1, Henry Threadgill Zooid- Pi Recordings
Esta Plena, Miguel Zenón- Marsalis Music

For the full listing , courtesy of JazzTimes, follow this link. And the Chair of the judges, Howard Mandel, has a great BLOG with more thoughts.

And for British interest, there's an evergreen Evan Parker in category 22, and Dave Holland.


Changes at NYJO

There are major changes afoot this week at the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. The running of the orchestra has been taken over since Monday by Fiona Ord-Shrimpton, newly-appointed as Executive Director. Mark Armstrong is responsible for the musical direction, working with a committee. Bill Ashton has become "Founder MD and Life President." And, hey, the week isn't over yet.

Mark Armstrong has been associated with NYJO as a player and assisting Bill Ashton for virtually 20 years. Fiona Ord-Shrimpton has a successful background in various kinds of fundraising. She tells me she has been a jazz fan for as long as she can remember. And has also been for many years an active supporter of the team at the Glasgow Jazz Festival.

The orchestra is going through a transition, which Chairman Nigel Tully describes as "transforming what until now has been an individually inspired organisation into a truly national educational institution."

Tully launched a "Chairs Appeal " a few months ago, targeting individuals or organisations who would sponsor a chair. These efforts have been met with success: most chairs have gone. Roland UK was announced as one of the sponsors. Tully has also found several other substantial donations and offers. There are no more than few chairs unclaimed. The Board of NYJO has also had support with its transition from an active and capable board, and from Jazz Services.

NYJO has just taken on a tiny office in Vigo Street, W1. To sponsor one of those remaining chairs or to point NYJO in the direction of someone who will - or just to congratulate NYJO's new Executive Director on her appointment and wish her good fiona (at) .


Bill Fontana's River Sounding at Somerset House

Bill Fontana's River Sounding is a walk-through sound installation. Admission is free. It's open on seven days a week. Thursdays until 8pm, other days till 6pm. It will close on May 31st. And it gets you to an interesting and normally hidden corner of historic London, right under the courtyard of Somerset House.

Sound and Music and the Somerset House Trust have commissioned Bill Fontana (who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the greats of British jazz photography David Redfern) to bring to life the resonances and the history of Somerset House through sound. This is what Fontana does, it's his shtick. I asked him if he ever worked with improvisers :

"What I do is a kind of improvisation," he said. Discuss.

Some years ago he had an installation in the Arc de Triomphe playing sounds of the sea in Normandy.

Want to read more? For those with long attention spans, here's an essay. Or just try the short explanatory video above.

There are sounds of bells- a bell-buoy, the bell on Southend pier, the bell in the clock tower of Somerset House. There are sounds of running water.

Right under the courtyard in what is called the Dead House. I found myself this morning in a pitch dark alcove with just a massive speaker pushing out bass frequencies, and a piece of superfluous piece of Somerset House balustrade for company.

More details on opening etc are HERE. There are quite a few steepish steps. People who might find them tricky should ring 020 2845 4600. I think this is going to get quite popular. And please don't tell too many people that the Courtauld Gallery has a nice basement cafe.


Honoured at the Royal Academy of Music

In the second week of May, the Royal Academy of Music will be honouring five major figures in British jazz with an Associateship.

Of these, four will be awarded the Hon. ARAM (Hon is for people who have not been students of the Academy).

The great pianist, composer and educator Nikki Iles

Keith Loxam, producer of Jazz Line-Up since its inception ten years ago.

Jez Nelson , presenter of Jazz on 3, and Director of Somethin Else .

Nick Smart, the indefatigable engine room of the Royal Academy's jazz department.

Flautist, film composer, bandleader Gareth Lockrane will receive the ARAM. Having been a student at the Academy, his award dispenses with the prefatory "Hon."

Congratulations to five immensely hard-working and deserving people. Here's the equivalent list from last year


A late April Fool from Cassandra Wilson

On Cassandra Wilson's Twitter and Facebook, dated April 1st 2010 comes the following assertion, so far without any evidence base.

When we make love we change the patterns of the weather...


RIP Steve Reid (1944-2010)

Sad to report the death of drummer Steve Reid. This video is of the making of the richly enjoyable album Daxaar in Senegal. A man deeply positive about the art of making music. And too young to be gone from us.


Ronnie Scott's in May

At moments when the Ronnie Scott's audience seemed underwhelmed by his recitation of forthcoming attractions, Ronnie would round off the list- deadpan- with "Peters & Lee, the Dagenham Girl Pipers and the Red Arrows." (above)

There are many nights in May when I would very happily find myself in the club.

Critical attention will focus on May 24th, a stellar quartet heading off around Europe which will be, among other things, a tussle for supremacy between Manchester and New York dialects: Gwilym Simcock, Adam Nussbaum, Steve Swallow and Mike Walker.

And how about vibraphonist Roy Ayers (Apr 26-30) , or guitarist John Scofield (May 1st). Or guitarist Wayne Krantz, vocal legend Annie Ross, or Manhattan Transfer., or alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, or Nat king Cole's brother singer-pianist Freddy Cole.

May looks indeed like a strong month's programming at Ronnie's. Even without the Red Arrows.


Photo an historic first in the history of Oxford

Here's a picture which it is a real privilege to publish. Yeah, it records a piece of history. It's a statement that the adventure of jazz can find its way to those hidden places, can be the first to "give resounding grace to all Heav'ns Harmonies." (Milton/Comus)

It's a photo of the first EVER public concert to have taken place in the magnificent, seventeenth century, fan-vaulted Convocation House of the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

The players for this sold-out event were Adam Waldmann's Kairos 4tet. It was given as part of the Oxford Jazz Festival.

In fact I like this picture so much I've published it twice. It can also be found where it ought to be: above Alyn Shipton's fine review of the gig.

(Photo Credit: Harley Evans of Barker Evans Photography )


Mike Zwerin (1930-2010) by Chris Parker

Mike Zwerin (1930–2010), by Chris Parker

Although he was a fine trombonist (he was part of Miles Davis's 'Birth of the Cool' band while still at college, recorded with Archie Shepp, Michel Petrucciani, Eric Dolphy and many others) and an underrated bandleader (his finest moment possibly the Weill recordings issued under the Orchestra USA rubric on RCA), I knew Mike Zwerin chiefly as a writer, both professionally (I commissioned and edited three books by him while at Quartet Books in the 1980s) and personally (he was an indefatigable e-mailer and our electronic correspondence over the years would make Clarissa Harlowe and her friends look like lazy dilettantes).

I first met him in 1982, when he submitted his autobiography, Close Enough for Jazz, to Quartet, a firm I had joined as a proofreader a year previously, attracted by their jazz list. He was an immensely attractive individual, warm, cynically wise, and (like his and my great hero Lenny Bruce) almost pathologically sensitive to bullshit of all varieties: political, inter-personal, musical. All these qualities infused his writing, most notably his aforementioned autobiography, which came out in 1983, but also his freewheeling, intensely personal book about jazz under the Nazis, La Tristesse de Saint Louis, and his translations of the jazz writings of Boris Vian, Round About Close to Midnight.

On his numerous visits to London, either in connection with these books, or on assignments for the International Herald Tribune, for which he was the Paris-based music correspondent, he often stayed with me, and he was, quite simply, one of the funniest, most acerbic, pungently witty conversationalists I've ever encountered, his interests ranging from jazz and its practitioners, through literature and art, to all things political (it was his distaste for Nixon's America that had led him to emigrate to France, via London, a decision chronicled thus in Close Enough for Jazz: 'Packing my bags to leave for Europe on 20 January 1969, Nixon's inauguration day, I knew somehow that I would not soon return to live in a country that could inaugurate such a President.') In the event, Mike never returned to live in America, settling in Paris, marrying Martine, a Parisian, and having a son, Ben (now an electric bassist), with her.

Articles on all manner of music appeared under his byline over the next couple of decades, all characterised by deep knowledge and love of the subject, but also unflinching in their acknowledgement of the commercial realities that operate in the field. Perhaps the finest example of such work can be found in Mike's last book, The Parisian Jazz Chronicles (Yale University Press, 2005): 'Kenny G' (Chapter 11, pp. 116–20), but his weekly articles on/interviews with everyone from Bob Dylan to Dexter Gordon and Wayne Shorter all provide object lessons in the art of journalism for their concision, wit and sheer readability.

His death at 79 robs me of one of my closest friends, but more importantly, it robs the jazz world of one of its most perceptive and eloquent observers. Mike will indeed be sorely missed by everyone who truly cares about music.

This tribute first appeared on the Vortex's website, and is reproduced by kind permission of the author.

Photo credit: Luciane Maia


Angela Carrington Award Winner

Congratulations to Rachel O'Reilly (above). She was announced at last night's final of the Angela Carrington Awards at the Vortex- backed by The Bob Stuckey Trio- as "the person who best represents the spirit of open mic nights in London." The other finalists were Anna Bernard, Brigette Bennett and Clive Raven.


Can there really be no jazz in HBO's Treme?

The publicity machine for Treme is now in full flow on both sides of the Atlantic.

This TV drama series from David Simon, who created The Wire is about a family of New Orleans musicians rebuilding their lives after Hurricane Katina. The first of its 10 episodes was screened on TV screens in North America last night. And it will reach the UK in the autumn.

The Guardian Review did a feature on it on Saturday, by a Brooklyn-based writer named Gabe Soria. Which has one curious omission:

The word "jazz" doesn't appear in the article. Eleven mentions of "music" or "musicians" but no J-Word. Anywhere.

"It's a game: write about Treme without saying the J-word:", the sage John L Walters suggested to me, pointing out that neither the New Yorker's piece nor David Simon's guide to the series had been infected or inflected by the J-Word.

Anyway, a consolation prize to Sarah Hughes of the Independent, who hasn't quite managed it. She gets one reference in. The word jazz qualifies the noun funeral. Oh dear.

Heres the Guardian's piece.

For those who can't get enough of Treme, the Watching Treme blog looks like it will cater to those with gargantuan appetites for news and detail.

Your first-hand sightings of anything resembling jazz from in front of a North American TV screen will be welcome!


Its a bird? A plane? It's the JazzFM Skydiving team

The plane is out of view. The five people above are JazzFM's skydiving-for-charity team at at Hinton Skydiving Centre in Northamptonshire last Thursday, led by PR specialist Rebecca Ladbury (centre). They have so far raised just over £2,000 for JazzFM's adopted charity Malaria No More, the funds being earmarked for its work in Ghana. To make a donation to a good cause, go HERE


Review: Mats Gustafsson with Pat Thomas and Phillip Wachsmann

Review: Mats Gustafsson with Pat Thomas and Phillip Wachsmann
(Day 1 of 2 day residency at Café Oto, April 9th 2010, Review by Geoff Winston)

Luigi Russolo wrote in 1913 (1) “... the art of noise must not limit itself to imitative reproduction. It will achieve its most emotive power in the acoustic enjoyment, in its own right, that the artist’s inspiration will extract from combined noises.” He could have had this concert at Cafe Oto nearly a century later, and the explorations of these three unfettered musicians in mind.

Mats Gustafsson emphasised the physicality and mechanical structure of the baritone sax, seemingly wrestling with it to create a myriad of sound statements – breathing in and out through its body, making clicking and tapping sounds, or passing his open mouth lightly over the mouthpiece to create a rush of air. His suppressed intensity would suddenly explode as violent squawks, roars and snaps of full-bodied, staccato sound. In contrast, sometimes you could picture ships' foghorns, the atmosphere of a river mysteriously shrouded in morning mist.

He also played the rarely seen slide saxophone. He described it as a British instrument, asserting that "Lol [Coxhill] is the only one I’ve seen mistreat it," dedicating the number to him. Later he confirmed it was a 1922 Swanee model, which linked it back to that era of the Futurists’ love-affair with the machine. It is about the size of a clarinet but with no keys and only a vertical slider, which startlingly pops out through the top of the body as it is manipulated, and in his hands was a means to create wonderfully unexpected acoustic sounds.

In the first set’s duets he linked up first with Pat Thomas, who played on the piano keyboard but also delved deep into its inner structure. They opened the concert with a massive piano crash and a blast on the bari – immediately countered with patterns of quiet clickings on the sax and gracing of the piano wires.

He then introduced violinist Phillip Wachsmann, who was equally suited to the tasks of foil and collaborator . Gustafsson recalled that his enjoyable association with Wachsmann went back 20 years to Derek Bailey’s Company.  Throughout the evening he was so at ease with his instrument that he would often change its orientation to increase the musical options, vigorously bowing, then extracting clusters of notes, using the bow on the violin's body as well as its strings.

The three then played as a trio in the second set. This brought a justifiable remark from Gustafson about how pleased he was with his choice of fellow musicians. They never competed, were always attuned to each other’s playing and, in the ways they built up and deconstructed their own sound textures, continually surprised and delighted the packed house. He also spoke up for Cafe Oto as a venue, and for the audience, whose persistence was rewarded with an encore. In keeping with the unpredicability of the performance – this came to a sudden end when a mechanical hissing noise from the bar area made an unscheduled, machine-age intervention. drawing smiles from all onstage.

How fitting, then, that machines should have the last word. As Marinetti wrote in 1909 (2): "A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath [...] is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace."

(1) The Art of Noise
(2) The Futurist Manifesto"